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The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10

by Stephen Hebert on Wednesday - 7 February 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the fourth part in an ongoing series on the Epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος, ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰ ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν, ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.

John uses three bold conditional clauses here to drive home his point.

  1. We cannot claim to be without sin—if we do, we are untruthful.
  2. Confessing our sins prompts God to purge us of them.
  3. By claiming to be without sin, we not only fool ourselves, but we are also calling God a liar, and he will not abide in us.

Time and time again, Scripture reminds us of our own sinful behavior. Because Adam committed that sin way back in Genesis, we too are doomed to a sinful existence. Disobedience is in our blood, it is part of us. To claim otherwise is foolish.

When we confess our sins, God forgives us and cleanses us. I would say that this works on two levels:

  • We must confess our sins to God.

He knows what’s going on, but in order to fellowship with him, in order to meet with him, we must allow him to purge us of our wrongdoing. Confession to God is key.

  • We must confess our sins to those we’ve hurt.

This is often harder. Everyone probably has something that they wish they hadn’t done. They wish it so deeply that there hope is to eradicate it by hiding it. Out of sight—out of mind. However, only when we confess our sins fully, are we able to heal.

So far we’ve talked almost exclusively about this important fellowship that we have with God. But, a Christian also desires fellowship with humans. Just as sin breaks the bond between God and people—it is the barrier that we throw up between us—it also breaks the bond between person and person. If we are to take Jesus as our model, then we must be relational by nature. We must love people, talk to them, hang out with them, be where they are. Sin can be a roadblock to these relationships.

When we confess our sins to those whom we have hurt, the opportunity to reform the bond of fellowship is strengthened. Does it always work out? No. Not at all. Absolutely not. People do not have the infinite capacity for grace and forgiveness that God has. Therefore, confession can be a painful process, for both parties. But it’s vital for re-establishing trust.

Finally, we must understand that claiming a sinless status is an affront to the person of God—it’s a blasphemy really. Only God is without blame; only God is without sin. To say otherwise is to make him liar.

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

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